In my researches as a story archaeologist, I often find myself plundering the same rich, golden seams of ancient Celtic and Norse myths that inspired the imaginations of much greater writers that went before me, notably J.S. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. And as I stand there, trowel in hand, before these gloriously resonant archetypal images – such as the dragon Smaug, from The Hobbit, that hoards piles of gold – I become fascinated to find out where such imagery came from because I know that will also give me its deeper, original wisdom meaning.
So where can we find the derivation of the dragon Smaug?
Well, we need to dig down even further into a dark, peaty layer that hasn’t seen the light of day for many thousands of years.
In order to interpret the metaphors contained in ancient myths, one has to first of all understand that they were meant to act as mnemonics, and so they were based on characters that our ancestors drew in the stars over their heads. In this way, these nomadic nocturnal wanderers and seafarers could carry their memory guide with them; they only had to look up and it was there.
This is no less true of the stories of the Celts, the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse – loosely known as the Northern Tradition. However, the stars of the Northern Tradition are not the same as those that were valued by the Greeks or the Egyptians astrologers, who created classic Western astrology. Therefore, to correctly interpret the stories of our ancestors in the northern hemisphere, we must know which stars were important to them. Continue reading